i heard my grandmother was dying today.
when i found out about the death of my former high school orchestra teacher, i was confused about how i felt. in the teacher's case, she was kind of like a genuine "mr. schuster" type of person, warm, caring about students, and encouraging them to be proactive in the arts (in this case orchestra), although the dynamics were probably around 100 times less dramatic. she taught elementary school orchestra too, so it was almost like she was with me from the very beginning of my violin "career".
our high school was kind of small (around 600 students), so the orchestra was tiny compared to most, meaning that the amount of privately trained students were sparse. as me and my sister were the best violinists in the school, we had a closer relationship to the teacher than most. our relationship became somewhat strained as i began to have the identity crisis that most asians in my situation face towards the end of my high school careers, the one where i began to question the activities i was doing all my life when i didn't even enjoy them (i.e. playing the violin).
a few incidents happened between us, and long story short, i felt somewhat betrayed and unappreciated by the teacher in the end. i held that grudge up to the day i found out she had passed. i didn't know how to feel. i knew i had the capacity for feeling sadness/shock over someone's death (because i had a very real experience in a dream of mine, not from anything real life however), but for some reason nothing registered when i heard about her. did my heart become that calloused towards her i couldn't even feel anything towards a woman who probably meant well for me most of the time? did i not feel guilty that i wasn't a better witness to her even though i knew she was not a christian?
today, it was somewhat different.
my relationship with my grandparents are almost nonexistent. my mother's father was dead before i was born, and my father's father died when i was around 8 or so. apparently when i was 4-5 and sleeping, there was one time my grandfather would be holding my hand when we were in the same room together, and once someone entered the room, he would immediately pull his hand back as if nothing had happened. typical traditional korean male hiding their emotions.
in the case of my father's mother, i really felt that she was probably the most accepting of me out of all my korean relatives. maybe it had to do with being the only male from america, showing flashes of random genius (calculating exchange rates from won to the dollar when i was 5), or that i was just that endearing. in any case, i knew she like my grandfather really enjoyed when i was around. i would hardly categorize our relationship as close however, seeing as i barely spoke any korean (apparently i also said something like, "there's a bug, get it!" which my parents always love to reference for some reason) and i saw her only when i visited korea (last time being in 2001).
i felt something stronger compelling me this time around, enough to go to korea tomorrow in order to be present. it wasn't that surprising that she was dying because she had been sick for a while, but in the midst of sorting through what i thought about it, i realized that again i wasn't THAT affected by it, and THAT realization actually made me more sad. i feel like i would only have a visceral reaction towards only a few people's deaths in my life. looking back on the my life, i can probably recount the few events that shattered my trust and hope in people and ultimately made me less willing to actually care. the hopelessness i feel towards relationships began to become more apparent as my stoic self began to surface.
people in my life have changed. they drastically differ from the version you remember them to be from 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. unfortunately, a lot of the times, i hate the newer versions, the ones that don't seem to remember the older versions, that don't have the characteristics of the old one you'd like to keep. kind of like microsoft excel 2003's superiority to microsoft excel 2007. i just can't hang on to people the way i used to because they ultimately are not the same person anyway. perhaps in my sick and twisted conception, that person has already "died" several times and the real death is the same as any other.
but i am grounded by the fact that i know my capacity to be deeply moved is still there. i know because i have always felt and have been carried away with strong emotions, no matter how much i try to guard myself from them. i know that there are some people i would sacrifice everything for, not only because it is my responsibility, but because i care deeply enough about them to do it willingly. maybe one day i'll learn how to trust the human race again.